Using Social Media as a Support Group

Written on January 13, 2009 – 9:37 am | by Shana Albert |

Image by gem fountain

It seems that now-a-days we can do most things online… clothes shopping, looking for Colleges, buying Holiday gifts, doing our banking… pretty much anything.

But there is something else we can do online….. something much more personal and sacred. We can even work on mending our inside pain and turmoil.

Before I get deeper into this topic I want to show why finding support groups online can make a lot of sense.

The Definition of a Support Group

Support Group – A support Group is a group of people who support each other over a problem they all share.

The Definition of an Online Community

Online Community – A group of people online who share a common interest.

Wow, both of those definitions sound very similar, don’t they?

An online community and support group are on the same type of idea. They have a common ground…. a common interest. And, the group builds from there. Because of this it makes sense that support groups would work online…. that they not only work, but they thrive.

A support group is usually a group centered around a very specific issue. This group of people usually come together to give and receive both emotional and practical support. When people come to a support group it is because they need to be with people…. to surround themselves with people that understand, have been through or are going through the same thing and can offer help, suggestions or just a shoulder to cry on. Most people aren’t looking for anything to be solved, but just to be with others in a similar situation can offer a sense of belonging and get them through the difficult time they are going through. Knowing that everyone who is part of this support group share the same problem and that they are not alone can be extremely helpful.

Social Media and online communities can be so helpful when it comes to support. I have shared issues of mine on my blog and the community has lent their support. I have on many occasions mentioned an issue I was having while communicating on Twitter and my friends their didn’t let me down.

But, what if you needed more? What if you need more specific help?

I love that my friends and colleagues want to lend their support. They want me to know that they care. But, what if i wanted to communicate with someone with my same problem…. a non-judgmental person that I can freely say what’s on my mind about our shared problem? Could that happen?

Sure, that’s where online support groups come in. Your friends and family are wonderful support, but when you need more specific help such as support on a specific topic…. support groups offer a safe environment for mutual support and encouragement. In order for a support group to work, online or in reality, you must feel safe.

What to look for in an Online Support Group / Community

  • Needs to be User Friendly
  • Easy Navigation – No confusion
  • Clean and bright

    This Online Support Group / Community is The Virtual Wellness Community. It is a great website that provides free support,
    education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. It is beautiful, easy to navigate, completely user-friendly even for the casual computer users. Their Online Community has plenty of articles to educate yourself on Cancer as well as inspiration and hope. It is a great place to meet other people with Cancer as well as loved ones who are dealing with the pain of someone they love having Cancer. People coming to this community are looking for support, friendship and strength. It truly looks like a safe place to be….. exactly how a support group / community should.

  • Clear Guidelines on how to use the support group.
  • Easy to follow as well as easy to find online support group rules.

    This Online Lupus Support Group is a perfect example of how to make sure make sure the online support group guidelines are right out in the open so that there is no question as to what the rules are. This way all support group community members are following the rules and not making any members feel unwelcome or unsafe.

  • Message Boards / Forums and Chats – This is a very important part of support groups. Forums and message boards are where community members can ask questions, get advice and others can offer suggestions and help. Even though the conversation is not real time, forums and message boards can be extremely beneficial. And, for many Online Communities the only conversation that can happen on the website are via message boards and forums. Chats are real time and also a great benefit. Make sure there is some kind of moderator in the chat…. sometimes sensitive and difficult conversations can get out of hand. It is helpful (and safer) to have a non-judgmental third-party moderator on hand.

    Look for a message board that have plenty of activity….. like this Eating Disorder Forum above. The more activity there is then you know it is an established forum and that the community enjoys it.

  • Links to important information and Websites. Forums and discussions are wonderful. But, you also need to understand the issues you are having…. why you are having them, what are the symptoms, when will they go away, etc. Good Support Groups and Communities should have plenty of information for you at your fingertips. Or, at least point you in the right direction.
  • Find a Doctor – These online support groups should also offer you the resources you need to help you find a Support Group in your area and a Doctor if need be. Online Support Groups are great, but sometimes you need a real person, real hug, real conversation…. reality.

These are just three examples of great Online Support Groups. But, there are so many more. And, most that I have found are doing an awesome job at combining Social Media and Community Support.

Twitter as a Support Group

Twitter has yet to add a group function to their Microblogging site. It’s coming…. at least that is what we are promised. But, as of yet…. nothing. There are an amazing amount of people on Twitter….. many with issues. This would be a great place to have groups. And, with Twitter the groups can have conversations real-time. As close to reality conversation with many people as it gets.

People use 3rd-party Twitter tools to create groups…. such as TwittGroups, GroupTweet, Hashtags (Hashtags website wasn’t working during the time of this post), TweetParty, Twitter Groups, TwittBot . Nothing that looked like it would be worthy of a support group….. except TwittGroups. Not spectacular, but it is as close as it gets as far as Support Group worthy on Twitter.

Searching for support groups on Twitter was not easy. I assume it will get much easier once Twitter finally adds group capability to the Twitter website. But, until then it is going to continue to be a struggle. I understand that these 3rd party Twitter Groups that I mentioned above have the ability to create Twitter groups, but why can’t I search the groups to find one that will match with my needs? Maybe I was doing something wrong or it wasn’t clearly visible on their sites, but I couldn’t find it. However, TwittGroups was the only place I could search the Twitter Groups easily. You can choose to either look through all their Twitter Groups , look through all the popular Twitter Groups, or do a search of Twitter Groups to see what is a good fit.

Once you find a group that you find interesting…. click on the link. You will find something that looks like this:

This is the Homeschool Twitter Group. They have a nice group going on, I must say. If you scroll down on this page you will see all the members. I’m not going to put an image of that here….. they have a lot of members. But, if you click on the link that says, "Show Members" it shows you all the members of this Homeschool Twitter Group.

Now go back to the main page again that looks like the above screen…. the main page of the Twitter Group you picked. Click on "TweetGrid"
and you will get the tweets having to do with your support group. Here is what the TweetGrid of what the homeschool support group looks like….

This is where you can see all the conversations having to do with your support group and the tweets done by the members of the support group.

Now, go back to the home Support Group page again and click on "Post Tweet" This is where you will post a tweet to the group. Doing it this way will label your tweet perfectly so that it appears in the TweetGrid.

Well, there ya go. Support groups can be a wonderful and helpful thing. I’ve used them several times to help with issues…. I totally agree with support groups. With Social Media it opens up the mediums that you can get support from… take advantage of that. It can be a wonderful thing.

Note: Please keep in mind that online support should not take the place of medical attention that you should receive from a doctor or professional.


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  1. 9 Responses to “Using Social Media as a Support Group”

  2. By CG Walters on Jan 14, 2009 | Reply

    Excellent perspective, Shana. Thank you.
    I also like the concept of “Collective Thoughts.” Best of luck and inspiration to you all,

  3. By Social Media Marketing Agentur on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

    Another great article. I people should use twitter more for that reasons. it’s really a good tool, if you’re looking for a support group.

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